People have been writing Twitter’s obituary for a few years now. But the actual eulogy might be read out by a new social media experiment called Mastodon. There is a drift even in the name, as Mastodon was species of now extinct mammutid proboscideans, distinctly related to elephants.
This free and “open source social network” calls itself a “decentralised alternative to commercial platforms”. While it looks and works a lot like Twitter, with toots instead of tweets, it tries to offer a contrast to the popular micro-blogging platform.
So, there is a low tolerance for excessive advertising, uncurated news bots, untagged pornography and sexually explicit content, untagged gore and extremely graphic violence as well as racism and sexism. Mastodon’s guidelines clearly state that it will not be a platform for neo-Nazi chatter. It is almost like an anti-thesis to Twitter in every sense.
Despite the good intentions, and over 41,000 users clocking over a million posts, mastodon.social has its problems. The mastodon.social platform is already beyond its capacity and users have to log in using different servers — a list of which is linked on the site — available at any given point of time. There are some apps on the way, but life is still not easy for a tooter. But these are early days, and the clear alternative to Twitter messaging might still work with a lot of users who believe in the original idea of a tweet.
Interestingly, Mastodon offers a bit more in that aspect for toots can be 500 characters long. Also, you get Facebook-like per-post privacy settings as well as very good blocking and muting tools. Plus, it has chronological timelines, something which Twitter killed in its bid to become more commercially viable.
The service has been created by 24-year-old Eugen Rochko who was miffed with a lot of changes introduced by Twitter recently. So Rochko decided that Twitter might not be the way forward and announced the service, named after a popular metal band. He told Verge that he was not doing this to become rich, but because he thinks this is right. So there is a Patreon account that helps cover expenses and maybe his rent and insurance too.
Mastodon might never get the volumes Twitter has, it certainly won’t if it is struggling to accommodate the 41,000 tooters it already has. But it clearly underlines Twitter’s problems, of users being miffed enough with the platform to launch their own. In fact, in its struggle to find a good way to make money, Twitter might have overlooked the viability of something that stands for what it originally was. There might be takers for a paid service that take the Twitter out of Twitter.